FEATURE: Eliza Evangelista Lapina: From fighting communist rebels to promoting good governance

If pushing for good governance in Santo Tomas town in Davao del Norte is an easy job for lawyer Eliza Evangelista-Lavina, this is because she used to come from a place where many people fear to tread.

Before being named as Municipal Administrator of Sto. Tomas munipality, Evangelista Lapinaplayed a key role in a special body aiming to drive away communist rebels in Davao City’s highland district of Paquibato, by bringing government closer to the people.

PEACE 911 formed by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte brought basic government services to the epicenter of the communist insurgency in the tri-boundaries of Davao Region-Bukidnon-Cotabato area.

As Peace 911 Focal Person, Eliza Evangelista Lapina coordinated a monthly caravan of city agencies bringing health, agriculture, legal, social, education, cooperatives, civil registry, land transportation and other basic services to 14 barangays of the mountainous district. Peace 811 also enhanced community peace with presence of police and military which also engaged in road repair and construction.

Sto. Tomas town is lucky to have Eliza Evangelista-Lapina helping her father, Mayor Ernesto “Tatay Erning” Evangelista , in steering the town to progress and development through good governance.

On September 16, 2019, the young lady lawyer was named as Municipal Administrator of Sto. Tomas. She was this time at the forefront of a new war—not of the communist insurgency—but ridding the municipal government’s bureaucracy of “corruption and malpractices.”

Attorney Elai

Fondly called as “Attorney Elay,” Elisa, as the chief administrative officer, will coordinate, lead and direct the department heads, officers and employees in the administration of the municipality in accordance with the policies and plans approved and established by the local chief executive.


Administrating the affairs of the municipality is a managerial skill that Lapina is adept at.

During her stint as the Peace 911’s head, she has proven herself not just a hands-on leader but also good at coordinating, and working both with the masses and government agencies.

Peace 911 was implemented in Davao City in compliance to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 or the Whole of Nation Approach in Attaining Inclusive and Sustainable Peace.

The success of Peace 911—its principles and mechanisms—is now seen as a template to implement EO 70 and replicate the best practices of the peace and development initiative across the country.

Corrupt-free governance

Like her mayor-father, Elisa takes the job seriously. It took her several months to decide and vacate her post as the Peace 911 focal person under the leadership of Presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara “Inday” Duterte.“

It takes a lot of discernment to leave a job that I am passionate about. But my decision to help and join in the administration of Tatay Erning is perhaps my response to a higher calling of public service.

It is a tough job, really,” Lapina, a peace and rights advocate, said.

When asked what prompted her to resign as Peace 911 focal person, Elisa said she wants to help her mayor-father lead a “corrupt-free” governance while giving the constituents of Santo Tomas the services they had long been deserved.

“My father wants to leave a legacy of corrupt-free governance. Of course, we don’t do it overnight or by Thano’s snap. Removing corruption in the bureaucracy is a painstaking step to begin with. But it has to be done,” she said.

“My father wants to leave a legacy of corrupt-free governance. Of course, we don’t do it overnight or by Thano’s snap. Removing corruption in the bureaucracy is a painstaking step to begin with.

But it has to be done,” she said. She would later confirm cases of corruption involving some municipal officials and admit that it would take time to do more intelligence gathering to build up cases against them.

“Not under my father’s term,” she warned, adding that malpractices performed by municipal officials and conduct unbecoming by wayward employees must be fixed to allow the delivery of public services unhampered.

“I think the message is clear and that is we need to exact a high and exacting standards of honesty in public service. Tatay Erning’s political will to stamp out corruption in the municipal government’s bureaucracy remains resolute,” Elisa said.

Unseen hand

While critics of her mayor-father say that she’s the “unseen hand” behind the major revamp in terms of the structure, assignments and affairs in the municipal government, Elisa, with equal bravado, said:

“Let them rant ‘till Kingdom come. They are entitled to their opinion, anyway.”She described the changes his mayor-father implemented since he took his office as the town mayor last July 1 as nothing but “compliance to all the law.”“We only corrected what needs to be corrected. It is expected that along the process, some will squeak because the new bureaucracy won’t favor them,” she said. New brand of public service

What inspired her perhaps was her motivation to render a new brand of public service emanating from her mayor-father’s politics of performance. “A government that is sensitive to the needs of people.

is what drives me and motivates me each day,” she said. “The people of Santo Tomas should feel that the government is working for them,” she said. Prior to her assumption as the municipal administrator, Lapina spent 20 years in the government service.

She was designated by Presidential Daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte as one of the members of Davao City Advisory Committee on Peace and Development until appointed to be the focal person of Davao City’s Peace 911.

She worked as a Computer Programmer back in 1999 in the local government unit of Davao.

She completed her Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Mindanao as a working student

Shen then pursued Bachelor of Law and passed the Bar exam in 2012. In 2012, Lapina was appointed as Attorney IV in the City Legal office by then Mayor and now President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Reprinted with minor revisions, originally published in Municipal Government of Santo Tomas, Davao del Norte, September 16, 2019

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